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SAFE PASSAGE: A Newsletter for the Humanitarian Mine Action and Small Arms/Light Weapons Communities, June 2013

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement June 2013
Date: 12/2012 Description: Safe Passage: A Newsletter for the Humanitarian Mine Action and Small Arms/Light Weapons Communities. - State Dept Image

In This Issue:

Retirement of PM/WRA Director Jim Lawrence

James F. "Jim" Lawrence, Director of The Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, retired at the end of January 2013. Family, friends, and colleagues gathered in the Exhibition Hall at The Department of State's Harry S Truman Building in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Jim's 45 years of public service and to wish him well in retirement.

Guest speakers included current and former colleagues who highlighted Jim's career in government from his early years in the Peace Corp to his leadership at The State Department. Friends and colleagues noted Jim's humanitarian nature, strong leadership, and his support of public-private partnerships, as demonstrated by the many NGO partners in attendance.

PM/WRA is under the leadership of Acting Director Steven Costner until further notice.

U.S. Concludes Clean Up Effort at Albanian Explosion Site

 Date: 2013 Description: Explosion site in Gerdec, Albania, post-cleanup. - State Dept Image
Explosion site in Gerdec, Albania, post-cleanup.
The Department of State successfully concluded a $14.5 million program to support Albania as it works to clear safely the site of a deadly 2008 munitions explosion. The program removed 3,085 tons of unexploded ordnance and 146,500 pieces of dangerous munitions. Learn more»

U.S. Diplomats Visit HALO Mozambique 

by The HALO Trust

 Date: 2013 Description: U.S. Diplomats at a HALO demining project in Mozambique. © The HALO Trust
U.S.Diplomats at a HALO demining project in Mozambique.
On February 25, 2013 HALO Mozambique hosted a small contingent of U.S. visitors to the Beira Powerline task in Manica Provenice. Of note was the attendance of Dr. Reuben E. Brigety II, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs whose area of responsibility is Southern Africa and regional security. Also attending was the U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Griffiths.

Note: Mozambique is on schedule to be mine-impact free by 2015. 

World Gifts Cafe Assisting Survivors of Conflict 

by The Polus Center

 Date: 2013 Description: Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe.  © The Polus Center
Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe.
The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, a USA-based NGO that specializes in victim assistance programs and has partnered for many years with PM/WRA, has opened a social enterprise called the Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe that sells and markets handicrafts made by landmine survivors and their families. Open at the beginning of 2012, the Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe has an upscale storefront in a prominent retail location in Clinton, Massachusetts and has recently launched a website that will sell products through an online store. Currently working with a number of established fair trade wholesalers and landmine victims that the Polus Center supports in Peru, Colombia and Nicaragua, the Cafe is reaching out to other providers of victim assistance services throughout the world that might be interested in selling products.

"We have established relationships with other fair trade wholesalers who are immediately able to import goods from around the world, and we are working with importers to determine procedures necessary for us to buy goods directly from landmine victims for sale at the Coffeelands Cafe," says store manager Michelle Miller. The Polus Center can work with artisans to help build their capacity to make marketable products and to get the products shipped in a time efficient and cost effective way. The Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe helps people to competitively sell their handicrafts through connections with buyers who have large customer bases and access to international markets.

Of particular interest to the Polus Center is working with survivors who live in coffee growing regions. In 2005, PM/WRA helped the Polus Center establish a public-private partnership project called the Coffeelands Trust, which reaches out to members of the coffee industry to participate in and help to fund victim assistance efforts. Many of the areas that are most affected by landmines are also prominent coffee growing areas. The Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe project helps to address not only issues typical of all victims of conflict but also the cyclical food insecurity and poverty associated with the "thin months" between coffee harvests. The Cafe also serves excellent fair trade organic coffee from Dean's Beans, one of the founding partners of the Coffeelands Trust.

The Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe is a project of the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to create opportunities for people with disabilities and members of other vulnerable groups to become valued citizens within their communities. In addition to providing social and economic development opportunities for landmine survivors, the Cafe raises community awareness about the importance of social inclusion for people with disabilities in part by providing competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities in a high end espresso bar and gift shop.

For more information about the Coffeelands World Gifts Espresso Cafe, go to, or contact Theresa Kane,, 978-270-2457. If you know artisans who might be interested in selling products through the Cafe, contact Michelle Miller,, 785-218-2468. To shop at the World Gifts Café, go to

Clearance of Biopio Village Dam in Benguela Province, Angola

by The HALO Trust 

 Date: 2013 Description: Hydroelectric Dam in Biopio, Angola. © The HALO Trust Hydroelectric dam in Biopio, Angola. 
 Biopio, Angola is home to one of the country's largest hydro-electricity dams. Located approximately 47km east of Lobito, a busy Angolan port, Biopio village and dam were encircled with a dense, defensive minefield in the late 1980s. The landmines were laid by Cuban forces, to protect the dam from a UNITA attack. An estimated 10,000 landmines were laid around Biopio and the mine types are a dangerous concoction of Cuban, Russian, East German and Yugoslavian, including "jumping" or "bounding fragmentation" anti-personnel mines. These mines prevented access to and from Biopio village on all sides, with the exception of one safe road in and out.

After decades of conflict, the Angolan civil war ended in 2002, but Angolans living in Biopio were prevented from moving forward and rebuilding their livelihoods. Many people in Biopio make their living fishing and grazing cattle and goats. The dangers posed by landmines surrounding their village blocked them from crucial water sources and good pasture lands. As well as a threat to human life, the loss of livestock from landmines can plunge a family into poverty.

Children represent the majority of the population in Angola (over half of Angola's population is under the age of 15). Children are often left alone without parental supervision during the day as their parents must go out to fish, graze cattle, collect wood, and run small businesses. In Biopio, the village is filled with children during the day and there was danger that they might stray off into Biopio's minefields or play with unexploded ordnance. In order to keep these children safe, Biopio's landmines and unexploded ordnance needed to be destroyed. 

  Date: 2013 Description: Dam Clearance Handover Ceremony with U.S. Ambassador to Angola Christopher McMullan. © The HALO Trust|
Dam clearance handover ceremony with U.S. Ambassador to Angola. 
In September 2012, The HALO Trust completed the formidable task of clearing these landmines from around Biopio. The world's first and largest humanitarian mine clearance organization, HALO began work on the Biopio minefields in 2007. It was a difficult and often painstaking task, with rocky terrain and intense heat often reaching 40 degrees centigrade. Steadfast funding support from the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, particularly in 2011-2012, allowed HALO to persevere and finish this important job.

The benefits of mine clearance go beyond the small scale direct benefit targeted at the local people. It also enables development projects at the municipal and provincial levels. Angola's Ministry of Habitation, in collaboration with the local administration, is working to distribute land to the local population for the construction of housing, as part of the national plan to build one million homes across Angola. This project was impeded by three of Biopio's minefields, but can now move forward.

The Ministry of Water and Energy are now rehabilitating Biopio dam with the aim of supplying electricity to Lobito, Benguela and Baia Azul municipalities. This is a major project that involves the construction of power lines along the roads that link the three municipalities. The construction of power lines had been blocked by Biopio's minefields. Sonangol, Angola's national oil company, has contracted an engineering and construction company to build a refinery at Hanha do Norte (16Km east of Lobito). Pipelines will run from Hanha to Catumbela, through Biopio and then to Lobito. Clearing Biopio's minefields allowed construction of this pipeline.

In March 2013, U.S. Ambassador to Angola Christopher McMullan and Benguela Province Vice-Governor Agostinho Felizardo will participate in a special handover ceremony to mark the completion of HALO's clearance at the Biopio hydro-electric dam. Much work still remains to be done in Angola, but thanks to the generous support of donors like the U.S. Department of State, The HALO Trust will continue its mission to make other communities like Biopio landmine free, for the benefit of all Angolans.

Notes on The HALO Trust - Angola

The HALO Angola mine clearance program has been operating since 1994 and today employs 650 Angolan nationals and five expatriate management staff. HALO continues to provide the mainstay of Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) resources in the central and southern provinces of Benguela, Bie, Huambo, Huila and Kuando Kubango. In addition, HALO runs a country-wide Weapons and Ammunition Disposal (WAD) project which receives unprecedented cooperation from the Angolan military and police. Since the end of the war in 2002 progress in HMA and WAD work has been considerable, with US funding crucial to both. To date USDOS funding to HALO's demining operations has enabled the clearance of more than 23,000 mines and 70,000 items of ordnance and making safe 598 hectares (1,478 acres) of high priority land. In addition US funding for WAD has brought about the safe disposal of more than 82,000 weapons, 227,000 items of ordnance and 2 million bullets.

Want to write an article for Safe Passage? Email Kristin Dowley at

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